By Elisa Shoenberger, Senior Prospect Management and Research Analyst, Loyola University Chicago
I’ve been living the prospect researcher’s dream. I’ve been doing a lot of proactive research and finding a lot of great new leads for my organization. But none of the gift officers seem to be as excited as me. How do I get them interested in these new people?
Excited but Frustrated Researcher
That’s super great that you are finding great leads to feed into your organization’s pipeline. But as you are finding out, that’s only half the battle. As researchers and prospect managers, we have to help convince gift officers that new leads are as great as we think they are. We have to market the leads so they go out and see them. That process can be very frustrating.
There’s a lot of different ways that you can do that. First, there’s the evaluation itself. What information are you including? How are you communicating what is awesome about a prospect in your written work? Does the person have a lot of securities, or a snazzy house with a giant mosaic covered pool? Is that in there? Does the person give a lot of money to their other alma maters? Or do they live in a coop in NYC or own a plane? These details can help explain why the person is so great. Make sure you write down what’s in your brain so there’s a record of it.
The next step is delivering the information. There’s a couple of ways of doing it but the effectiveness depends on the gift officer. For instance, I’ve heard over and over that giving a list of prospect leads on a spreadsheet is the kiss of death. A long list of people in a spreadsheet can be daunting but a small one might be okay. It really depends on the comfort level of the gift officer. If they like spreadsheets and are comfortable with data, then I think it can work. But I’d make sure that list is short. And maybe include a sentence on why they were included.
Another option is to send one off emails. You can make a case for why the lead is awesome in an email. It’s a direct way of marketing the person to a gift officer. However, it’s extra work to write one email for every person you find. You could try 2-3 but it’s still another email. Plus emails can get lost in the quagmire of one’s mailbox.
Recently we implemented a new report called the “New Prospect Report” that helps spread the word on leads. This report records all new research analysis in a time frame who are not assigned to a gift officer. It includes the name of the person, city, state, degrees, the research note, and their rating. It’s like a semi-monthly email that goes out to all the gift officers. Then gift officers can see all the wonderful work you’ve been doing. And then, they can let you know who they want assigned!
However, I think the best thing you can do to market your new finds are meetings. Yes, I believe that is the solution for a lot of problems but that’s because face to face communication is really effective. I think it would be great to meet the gift officer with a list of a few individuals that you think they should take a look at. Or if you have a pre-existing meeting, just add it the agenda. That way, you can tell the gift officer why you think someone is great. Hopefully, that’ll result in some new additions to their portfolio!
These are just a few suggestions. If you have more, please let us know at APRAIL@gmail.com
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